Immokalee family says FEMA refused to help

Published: Updated:

IMMOKALEE, Fla. Hurricane Irma tore through an Immokalee family’s home, leaving a damaged roof and mold growing on the walls.

The family has a child with special needs, but so far, no FEMA help.

Maria Garcia said her family first started noticing the mold growing in their house two days after Hurricane Irma hit. But, the 19-year-old’s biggest concern is her 4-year-old brother Ricky.

“It’s bad for everybody because we can’t breathe it in, but it’s worse for him if he’s breathing it in because he can get pneumonia,” Garcia said.

After Hurricane Irma hit, the family lost power for two weeks, according to Garcia. Because of the power outage, her little brother wasn’t able to use the proper machines to help him breathe clean air, she said.

There is a blue tarp covering the entire roof.

“FEMA had came inside the house and saw everything, and saw the pictures we showed before and said no,” Garcia said.

Garcia says FEMA wanted them to leave the house, but her family has nowhere else to go.

“They wanted us to leave the house in order from them to help us, but we don’t have anywhere to go. They didn’t offer us any shelter,” Garcia said. “We told them we have a Down syndrome baby but they said, ‘Oh, we didn’t ask for that.'”

Neighbors have given donations, including air conditioning units. But, Garcia still wonders why she hasn’t gotten a different response from FEMA.

“I know people that applied and I went to their house and their damage wasn’t as bad as mine and they got accepted,” Garcia said.

The Garcias plan on putting their own money into fixing the roof, an estimated outlay of thousands of dollars.


After this story aired, the Florida Division of Emergency Management released the following statement:

DEM will continue to work with Collier County to make sure FEMA meets the housing needs of this community. We are 100 percent committed to the full recovery of every resident in Florida.

With regards to housing for Hurricane Irma survivors, the Division:

– Has and continues to hold daily calls with county emergency management officials to help identify and address any unmet needs.

– DEM leadership and recovery staff made calls to each individual county with active FEMA housing programs to address any specific concerns relative to their area.

– Throughout the storm’s response and recovery, the Division has been working hand in hand with local leaders and emergency management officials to collect as much information as possible regarding specific housing needs. This information is being used to develop innovative solutions to housing issues not only in Everglades City, but anywhere with a critical need.

It is important to note that staff at the Division and the State Emergency Response Team are working with local and federal officials every day to meet the needs of those individuals impacted by Hurricane Irma. We strive to stay in constant communication with our local partners and proactively address any potential issues as quickly as possible, ensuring Florida’s families receive the support they need to recover from Hurricane Irma’s impact.


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